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Humboldt rivers turning green

Fishing the North Coast by Kenny Priest, author badge,
t’s been well over a month since the coastal rivers in Humboldt County have looked anything other than dirty brown. Since the last big rains, which came towards the end of January, the North Coast has been blessed with some beautiful weather. And that fabulous weather, coupled with a two-week stretch of rain-free days, has turned the majority of the rivers emerald green. The one exception being the main stem Eel, and that’s just a few days away from being pristine. Redwood Creek, the Mad, South Fork Eel, and the Van Duzen are all in prime shape for those looking to target winter steelhead. If you’ve been waiting for the perfect opportunity to wet a line, now is the time. Rain is in the forecast for late next week and rumor has it El Nino could be making a comeback towards the end of the month.

Weekend Weather
According to Reginald Kennedy of Eureka’s National Weather Service, there isn’t much of a change in store for the weather in the next week. “A weak system will arrive on Friday, bringing with it light rain. The heavier amounts will fall in Del Norte, where they could see a quarter to a half inch. Humboldt will likely see less than a quarter. The high pressure will settle back in on Saturday and we’re looking dry through next Tuesday. Rain is in the forecast for next Wednesday and Thursday,” Kenned added.

Rowdy Creek Steelhead Derby
The 34th annual Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery Steelhead derby will take place February 18 thru 20. There will be 25 teams and participants will rotate between the Smith and Chetco rivers. For more derby information, visit

John Kern, pictured Left, landed this nice Smith River steelhead on Wednesday. Also pictured is Tim Stude, Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson Guide Service
John Kern, pictured left, landed this nice Smith River steelhead on Wednesday. Also pictured is Tim Stude, Photo courtesy of Curt Wilson Guide Service

CA Fish and Game Commission meeting
Day two of the California Fish and Game Commission meeting will be held Thursday, Feb. 11 at the Resources Building Auditorium, 1416 Ninth St., Sacramento at 10 a.m. Topics include recommendations concerning the fishing closures at the mouth of Blue Creek as well as the proposed emergency fishing closure of the Sacramento River from 5.5 miles from the Hwy. 44 bridge to Keswick Dam. The meeting will be live streamed.

HSU Fishery Seminar
Rebecca Garwood, an Environmental Scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be giving a presentation titled "The other listed anadromous fish: state of the knowledge of longfin smelt along the north coast of California" on Wednesday 17 February 2016 at 5:00 p.m. in WFB 258 on the HSU Campus.

The Rivers:
Chetco River
The river is low and clear, but the boats are still catching plenty of fish, both wild and hatchery. This past week, most of action has centered from down river of Loeb Park. Some rain is in the forecast for Friday, and the river is predicted to see a slight rise.

Smith River
Similar to the Chetco, the Smith is low and starting to clear according to guide Mike Coopman. “We could definitely use a little shot of rain to add some color, but I have no complaints on the fishing. There’s plenty of fish around and we’re catching them from the top to the bottom,” Coopman said.

Eel River (main stem)
The main stem is still slightly off color and a little on the high side reports Fred Grundman of Rio Dell’s Grundmans Sporting Goods. “There must be quite a bit of water coming down from the mountains as it’s dropping very slowly. It should fish by the weekend, and for sure this time next week if we don’t get a bunch of rain,” Grundman added.

Eel River (South Fork)
The South Fork is in perfect shape and fishing all the way to the confluence with the main stem. Boats scores are ranging from zero to five fish per trip. There’s about a 50/50 mix of fresh fish and downers.

Van Duzen
The Van Duzen looks absolutely perfect according to Grundman, but reports have been hard to come by. “The water is green and flows are good, should be a good option for the weekend.”

Mad River
According to Justin Kelly of Eureka’s RMI Outdoors, the Mad has finally turned steelhead green, and there seems to be some fish around. “The guys tossing bait are doing well, and the liners have been having a hard time since the water cleared up. There are pockets of fish throughout the river, you just need to find them. There’s a good mix of wild and hatchery fish around, with the lower river having a better concentration of fresh fish,” Kelly said.

Upper Trinity
Tim Brady of Weaverville’s Trinity Outdoors reports the steelhead fishing is decent, with the majority of the fish around having already spawned. He said, “With the coastal rivers coming into shape, the angling pressure has been lighter than usual. Some of the guys are catching, and some are having a rough time. Most of the fish around have gotten to where they needed to go. The winter-run steelhead have yet to show, and we’re hoping they’re just running late. The river is in good shape at least to the North Fork, I haven’t heard how it looks below the South Fork.”

Find “Fishing the North Coast” on Facebook and for up-to-date fishing reports and North Coast river information. Questions, comments and photos can be emailed to

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